This Is Me Outside My Comfort Zone . . . New Years Resolutions

Things outside my comfort zone that I wish to make a little less so this year . . . 

1. Shammi Kapoor 

So, I've enjoyed  the Raj, worshiped the Shashi, and recently ever-so-tentatively dipped my toe into the lake of the OTHER Kapoor brother, Shammi, with his signature film, Junglee (1961).

I think the scene that sold me on Shammi's potential was his turn reciting Urdu couplets in front of the fire . . . snowed into a cabin in the Kashmir mountains. Yeah, I know it's a cliché for a reason  . . . but he wasn't half bad at it, and he wasn't half bad himself. Maybe I'll watch Kashmir Ki Kali (1964) next and see if his pairing with another actress who I actually like (sorry Saira Banu, I can't quite forgive you for marring my beloved Hera Pheri) helps bring out his best qualities.

2. Dilip Kumar

Here's the thing. I kind of have a thing for Dilip Kumar. (And Madhubala, but who doesn't?)

And not just as the son of the Great Mughal. This gifset proved those suspicions correct. (When Tumblr starts handing one revelations, it's time to reexamine the role of gifs in one's life.) But I'm still not convinced I'll have a thing for most of his films. I may or may not attempt to watch Devdas (1955) again, and/or Madhumati (1958). We'll see.

3. 1940's and 1950's Naushad Songs

"Ae Mohabbat Zindabad" from Mughal-e-Azam (1960), is practically a religious experience for me. And the song pictured at left ("Phir Aah Dil Se," Mela, 1948) made me cry instantly and completely out of context. I hadn't even seen any of the rest of the film. Maybe that's the magic of singer, Zohra Bai, or maybe it's just the effect of another special artist.

Because both of these songs are the work of  renowned music director, Naushad Ali. (And some amazing vocal talent.) Seems like reason enough to seek out Naushad for spiritual and emotional enlightenment purposes. See Dances on the Footpath's recent and excellent post on Naushad for a more comprehensive view of Naushad's work from the 40's.

4. Russian movies without subtitles
Many Roads/Different Fortunes, USSR, 1956

So many pretty films . . .  so few with subtitles.

Sure, you can access more old Soviet films than ever these days. YouTube and Mosfilm are much responsible for that. However, unlike Hindi cinema, you can't fall in love with a time period and just consume willy-nilly and expect to come across more than a a couple dozen subtitled flicks. I really enjoy the look of the films from the 50's . . . like the film pictured on the right. It was so gorgeous and beckoning, yet not available with eng subs. I watched it . . .enjoyed it . . . but I know I missed a lot.

Will it be worth it to give it another go? Do I have any choice if I want to enjoy a lot more Soviet cinema? (Am I being far too dramatic about this? In some ways I'm probably privileged. I bet there's a lot more world cinema subbed into English than in other languages. But I still would like to submit a complaint, nonetheless.)

5. Shaw Brother's films and other classic Hong Kong cinema

I'm in the middle of two Hong Kong films . . .one an example of Huangmei opera, called the Mermaid (1965) . . .  about a poor student who must make something of himself before his future in father in law will allow marriage . . . and the carp spirit/mermaid who romances him in the meantime.

And another called Mambo Girl (1957) . . . which seems to be about a very narcissistic college-age celebrity and the secret her family is hiding about her.

They are both interesting enough to warrant more attention. And thanks to the Shaw Brother's Studio's recent Subtitled Film Release/Bonanza, there's potentially a lot more where those came from. But as for me, I'm going to be in the middle of a lot more soon if I don't get my shit together and just finish what I start.

Liking HK cinema will not be the end of my Hindi film love. After all, I've been to China and loved it (apart from being gluten intolerant and therefore feeling like I was starving the entire time) and I want to go back. It's totally fair to get into HK cinema in a different way. *Whispers dramatically* "Filmi gods, you won't be jealous, will you?"


6. Sridevi. 

Am I allergic? Or just overstimulated and woozied by the neon 80's glow that always seems to surround her?Should I give her a real chance? Where and how should I start giving her a real chance?

I kinda like the look of the pictured film (Khuda Gawah, 1993) and it's available for freeeeeee on Hulu. No strings attached. Also no Chandni. I refuse.

7.  The Other Khan's (not Shah Rukh) vehicles of the 90's. 

The die was cast with the advent of my watching Aamir's Raja Hindustani. So, can I do it again? Will I need to drink my way through? Or will it be easier to grasp/enjoy than I think?

And is Aamir the chosen one? To lead this journey at least?

8. Mastering the basics of a non-Devanagari Indian script

I don't know if I'll ever be a whiz at speaking multiple foreign languages, but I recently discovered that I've got a bit of a knack for learning multiple foreign scripts at least. After a semester of Hindi (and a year of Hindi films) Devanagari is starting to feel really homey and comforting  . . . and while I love that feeling . . . the specific brain-muscles I must have used to learn Devanagari initially are screaming for more exercise.

So, first I returned to Russian Cyrillic, and learned that over the course of an afternoon. And I've also *almost* got the basics of Hangul (South-Korean) down in the last week (I have a lot of Korean family members, I went to S. Korea last year and spend a lot of time drinking out of souvenir mugs that I can't read very well, My best friend is living in S. Korea, My Hindi teacher is Korean, I want to learn to cook Korean food. . . so it all around seemed like a logical skill to have).

I'm counting on some help in learning Urdu . . . and aagle Fall semester ko, mere paas madad hai, so I'm not too self-motivated YET in that direction. But I'd really like to be able to read other Indic scripts. I'm currently working on Bengali, Gurmukhi, and Tamil--and hoping one starts to stick :)

Working isn't really a fair term tho. . . I just find it really calming to learn/use a "new" writing system. It's not really so much self-discipline as self-help. It just happens to calm my itchy foot (I haven't done any significant traveling in 6 months, and probably won't until I save up for my first India trip next year) . . . plus it does wonders for my mood.

The only side effect is when I start wondering if I should change my future plans to fit my widening range of interests and then get emotionally overwhelmed by the strangeness and shifting-sands nature of it all. That's when I run back to Devanagari like a lost puppy and dive back into my kennel marked with familiar diacritics and take a nap. Actually, a similar phenomenon can be observed in my adventures in other national cinema (that isn't Hindi). After some cheerful hyperventilating and dog paddling about, I splash right back to the happy Hindi shore, ready for dry land again.

My Condensed New Year's Resolutions 

  • Watch something Hindi from the 1940's (start to finish). I double-dog-dare you, Filmi~Contrast. (Maybe you could watch Andaz (1949), that Dilip/Nargis/Naushad movie you thought you might like and kill a couple of birds with one stone?)
  • Pick one. Just one of the Indic scripts to spend your time on. And then just remember it. It's that simple ;) 
  • Watch something else without subtitles. Maybe something in your language of formal study, too . . . hint, hint?
  • Start your new job and maybe move somewhere new around the same time and and choose not to freak out over either. Hey, maybe that's why comfort zones are on the brain all of a sudden. Maybe ;) New Job = Money = Going to Shimla. Focus on that sequence of events. 

But . . . don't think too far ahead. Take after some bad-ass filmi role models . . . stop worrying . . . and do what you do best instead.

What cultural or Hindi film-related comfort zones do you want to step out of this year?


  1. A very interesting post, Miranda (and thank you for the reference). I hope you get a few more answers to your question!

    Beyond my comfort zone? Well, I guess I should start looking again at Hindi films made after about of these days...

    Regarding your resolutions... I do recommend seeing more films with Dilip Kumar. It's not too hard to find them! Most of them won't be very happy affairs, but there are a few that are. And, yes, it is not uncommon at all to have a thing for Dilip Kumar.

    Strangely, I never had a big thing for Madhubala. I thought she was an excellent actress when she was very young, in Mahal. That was a Gothic masterpiece, made in 1949. And Ashok Kumar was very good in that. I'm pretty sure he's my favorite male actor.

    Of course, the guy who directed Mahal - Kamal Amrohi - had a bad marriage to Meena Kumari, so I have to hate him, because I do have a thing for her. Also for Noor Jehan, especially when she sings. And Suraiya... And Nimmi sometimes...

    I had a thing for Padmini for a few years right after I first got into these films (let's say 2007-10), and I have a reputation for that among the long-time readers of my blog. That thing has worn off a little, though I still think she is wonderful when she dances.

    And Padmini provided a means for me to like Shammi Kappor just once, when they co-starred in Singapore (1960). They were a ridiculous match together, but I thought Shammi was funny in that movie. But otherwise... I'll admit something to you that I haven't admitted to a couple of other "Bolly bloggers" we know, who love him. And that is, I've actually avoided films because he was in them! But maybe I should also venture outside of that comfort zone.

    I don't think much of Saira Banu, either, but I am really getting to like her mother, Naseem, in those films from the '40s! (I believe I saw her in one from the late '30s too.) She is on the screen in the fifth song on my Naushad list, with playback from Shamshad Begum.

    And by the way, in response your request in the comments - in case you haven't seen this yet - I have just posted a bunch of links to old posts I did that contained more Zohrabai songs.

    I envy you for your ability to master Devanagari. I learned some a couple of years ago but have forgotten most of it. And how I would love to read Urdu!

    It is interesting that you're thinking of Hong Kong films... That hasn't occurred to me. I have gone through periods of seeing a lot of films from Egypt. They seem to follow a structure and style pretty close to Indian films. And I like Egyptian belly dance...though it doesn't come close to classical or semi-classical Indian dance.

    Recently, I've left my comfort zone by getting very much into some American film scenes. But the ones I like are from before 1940 (of course), and they also have a lot of music and dance (such as tap dance - but with a lot of variations). That's a zone I went into much more right around New Year's...

    Anyway, you have inspired a few thoughts there - hope the comment wasn't too long! :)

  2. I love long comments, so I will respond in kind :)

    *I totally get the American classics love. I sort of go in phases of interest in them, but these days when I explore the older Hollywood, I usually end up in the 30's . . . you know, when dames were witty, real life was shitty, and men were mostly con men, lol :) I've been watching a new precode every month or so this last fall . . . which has been quite fun.

    *I think this is the Padmini you mean? Correct me if I'm wrong ;) I ran across this joint production in my Russian film wanderings recently. I should ransack your sites archives for this obsession of which you speak . . .

    *I haven't thought much about seeking out Egyptian cinema as well . . . but I have done some initial research into Turkish and Iranian cinema. Mostly, they're either rather depressing, or just plain hard to track down copies of. However, the belly dancing seems like a good reason to get into Egyptian films . . . and familiar enough to provide a cultural portal. (BTW, I found Radio Bastet through your blog, and it's been fun to dabble with.) Any favorites/best numbers so far?

    *Speaking of things that are rather depressing, you confirmed my suspicions about Dilip Kumar's filmography. However, I think I will take the leap anyhow. As for Madhubala, a crushworthy face does not an actress make. I think she offers more presence than craft, but I enjoy the presence so, it works for me. I actually started Mahal a while back, but it just wasn't fitting my mood at the time. I keep meaning to get it from Netflix again.

    *I am skeptical as to my ability to appreciate Shammi. It's always nice to know one is not alone in such appreciation blocks ;) It took me 4 or 5 times trying to start Junglee before I really settled in to watch it properly. The beginning is SOOOO heavy-handed. However, he was much more reserved in other parts of the film. I wish he would spend more time being serious than hamming it up . . . because I quite like him when he's serious and thoughtful. From my minimal research, it sounds like he was quite the reader, and I'm sure he *could* bring intellectual layers to a role, given the chance. "Professor" seems OK so far . . . but I can just smell over-the-top antics coming.

    *I can respect the Ashok Kumar thing. He's got such a lovely face, and such warm and interesting eyes. By the 70's, I've mostly just seen him in fatherly roles (usually in courtesan-themed films) . . . but he brings so much extra to the smallest interactions. I loved him in Sharafat (1970), especially. I didn't love him in Pakeezah, but then, I didn't like that film especially. I think it also gave me a bad opinion of Meena Kumari. I'd probably have to see her in something MUCH much earlier in her career (1950's?) to properly appreciate her. I'm quite amused by your loyalty to Meena equaling your dislike of Kamal Amrohi. I'ts amazing how attached one gets to people who are long gone. Cinema is just that powerful.

    Also, do you like Noor Jehan? I hadn't noticed ;) No she seems amazing. Any recommendations of a introductory film to experience her in?

    1. For some reason the Padmini link didn't appear--so here it is:

  3. Hello. Sorry for the delayed response. I actually started to answer this a week ago, and then I lost several paragraphs due to some technical screwup. I had tried answering in a more creative way, but I think this time I'll just go point by point as you raised them. :)

    Regarding the old American classics... Yes, I like the grim picture of life in many of them, influenced by the Great Depression. I think they are much more easy to relate to under the present economic circumstances in the U.S. than, say, films from the late '40s into the '60s. :) But the stuff that really grabs me in these films is - not surprisingly - the music and, especially, dance. Why did Hollywood move away from emphasizing that sort of thing? It was a big mistake! That's one reason I prefer Indian movies/Bollywood.

    I love some of the tap dancers of the old days... Eleanor Powell for one, and I always liked Ginger Rogers. (Of course, both often get to dance with the perfect male dancer, Fred Astaire.) I also have gotten to like a British actress/singer/dancer a lot; her name is Jessie Matthews.

    Regarding Padmini, yes, that is her.

    You should get back to Mahal. It is a great film. Skipping down to Pakeezah, I guess you know that that was directed by Kamal Amrohi too. It's too bad you didn't like it so much, because I did! Meena Kumari wasn't too well in some of those scenes. She wasn't always as beautiful in this film as before, nor as energetic. It was really sad. But I still think she was very good. Ashok Kumar was OK in that, though it's not one of my favorite performances by him. You know who's really great? Veena! She plays the aunt.

    I was sort of joking when I said I hated Kamal Amrohi. I can't hate him as a director, because he was great. (I also saw Razia Sultan, which wasn't that great a film, but you can see some of his good work there.) But I can hate him for being mean to Meena, which is what I've heard...

    Re. Noor Jehan - well, it's easy to find Anmol Ghadi. Not everybody loves that as much as I do, but it is probably her best known "Bollywood" film.

    Tom Daniel has a bunch of her Pakistani movies on YouTube, specially made with subs:

    If you want to watch one of those, the best one to start with is Dupatta. After that, maybe Mirza Sahiban (which is the one film there that isn't Pakistani - because it was her last film before Partition). The Punjabi film Nooran is good, too. I actually had trouble getting through the rest of the films there, but the songs and the singing are great. You could just try those out on his song channel:

    You can find a huge number of Noor Jehan clips on YouTube, though outside of Tom's channel, almost all of them are without subtitles, and usually not as clear visually.

    Some pre-Partition films to look for are Village Girl, Khandan, Zeenat, Jugnu, Badi Maa, and Lal Haveli.

    Re. Egyptian films... Well, I wrote about a bunch of Egyptian films and videos about three years ago (I think), then some more a year later. You can just search for "Egypt" at my blog (sorry, I'm not going to curate this time. :) ) A few of these films starred Samia Gamal, who's a pretty good belly dancer. One starred Hind Rostom with Omar Sherif. My favorite belly dancer, who was also a very interesting person (an activist and other things), is Tahia Carioca. I haven't found any subtitled films with her, but it's easy to find her dances, which are from the Golden Age - which is about the same time as Bollywood's Golden Age. :) I also have gotten to like Nama Akef, who did much of her best stuff a little later, from the late '50s into the '60s.

    OK, now let me try to send t his long comment through... :)

    1. Richard,

      Thank you for your thoughts/recommendations on Noor Jehan and pre-Partition cinema. I followed the link--and it looks like I already followed Tom Daniels a while back, lol. Obviously I didn't get around to seeing anything on his channel--but Dupatta does look interesting, so I will check it out.

      My favorite films from the 30's are mostly screwball comedies and gangster films. Sometime I will get around to more of the musicals of the era. One sort of crossover film I am very fond of is Something to Sing About (1937); a musical unremarkable except for its lead, James Cagney . . . who gets to step outside his "wisecracking criminal roles" and dance . . . a treat which is worth seeing Yankee Doodle Dandy and Footlight Parade for (if one hasn't already) alone.

      By the way, I did decide to just rummage through your blogs' archives last weekend, and found some interesting teasers for various Egyptian films. Those clips led me to a Farid al-Attrache/Shadia/Hind Rostom film (Inta Habib--un-subtitled, but still a fun watch) and to what seems to be the quintessential commercial Egyptian classic, Afrita Hanem. Just from watching various clips and one film, I think I could spot Samia Gamal's dancing a mile away--her movements are unmistakable. Thanks for guiding me in that direction, I think it will be quite a nice compliment to my Hindi film watching :)

      Also, as regards to the sad lack of musicals in Hollywood these days (and even when it happens, I'm usually less than impressed), I could not agree with you more. As my friends and I always say, "Life SHOULD be a musical!" And if we can't make our lives into a musical, then we darn well want to see more musicals in our fantasy life at the movies :)

  4. Quite an interesting conversation there between you and Richard. I have seen a few black and white 50s movies which were lovely - madhumati, sujatha, bandini, seema, paravarish, chalti kaka naam gadi, howarch bridge. They were all good - however I am less inclined to see B&W movies. Watch chalti ka naam gadi (comedy of ashok, Kishore, anup kumar) and howrah bridge - you will like madhubala - she was the heroine in these movies

    You have to watch sri devi's south films to appreciate her acting - 16 vaiydanille, moonam pirai, shaman shanam - non glam roles

    1. It's funny how things can change in a few months. Since this list of resolutions, I have followed up on a lot those rabbit trails of interest. I watched more B&W and found it to be a niche, rather than all consuming interest for me. I am in the mood for them less often . . . but sometimes only a 50's classic will do. Madhubala I am realizing is a Plus to have in a movie . . . I really enjoy her. But I don't know if I love her all the time.

      On the opposite end, I actually am starting to love Sridevi (thanks for the Southie recommendations!) after a handful of viewings. Even in films where I am mostly disgusted with everyone else (i.e. Tohfa) I still love her.

  5. Letting you into a secret - while studying in uni (undergrad course) in India, my twin and I had a pact that we would totally avoid any Jeetendra (white pants/white shoes phase), Sridevi and Jayaprada movie in the theatre coz being based in the South, we knew that most of them were re-makes of faltu (means useless in hindi) southie melodramas! So we managed to avoid awful movies like Tohfa but had to suffer the odd songs on TV. Sri Devi's hindi movies worth watching are Mr India, Chandini, Lamhe and Akhree Rasta with Amitabh - she had a small flirty role in the last one which was a remake of a tamil movie and the more recent English Vinglish. Do give those southie movies a go if you have the time - they are totally different to her hindi roles

    1. Amused by your anecdote of uni days :)

      I actually have an inexplicably high Jeetendra tolerance . . . even in the 80's. I cannot say the same about Jayaprada, for whom I feel an irrational loathing. Tohfa was horrible, but I enjoyed it in a "I'm going to watch something without subtitles to practice my Hindi and I don't want to watch something really good and miss out" kind of way.

      I probably won't see Chandini. Ever. But I will see Lamhe and check out Akhree Rasta.


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